Little known fact: Baltimore is the only city in the world to have won a Super Bowl, NFL Championship, USFL Championship, and a Grey Cup.
That last one may have surpised you. Yes, Baltimore hosted a CFL team at one point in time, and they were pretty good.
The Baltimore Stallions were the only successful team in the CFL's doomed expansion into the U.S. In it's short two-year existence, the Stallions had winning seasons, and in 1995 became the only American franchise ever to win the Grey Cup. Their 18 victories that season are the most ever by a CFL team. The Stallions routinely drew crowds of over 30,000 to their games, double the crowds of their American counterparts, and second-best in the CFL. Later, three Stallion players and the head coach would join the CFL Hall of Fame.
The NFL was back, and the CFL had to go. The Stallions left Baltimore, and moved to Montreal. Because of this, the Stallions were never able to properly revel in their monumental acheivement.
This Sunday, they were finally able to celebrate their influential Grey Cup win together.
About 20 players and former coaches, equipment managers and cheerleaders made it to Baltimore for the 20th Anniversary reunion of the team. Among the attendees were star DE Elfrid Payton, former GM Jim Popp, Owner Jim Speros, CFL Hall of Fame RB Mike Pringle, kicker Carlos Huerta, and Stallion/Raven linebacker O.J. Brigance.
The mood was positive and upbeat, as the players were treated to a standing ovation whilst Queen's 'We are the Champions' played. Players caught up with each other, and the old camaraderie was rekindled amongst the squad. "We were talking all football. It was football all night," Pringle said. "We talked about all the crazy things we did off the field; all of the success that we had on the field; all of the talent that was there. How we dominated teams."
While it was all party in Baltimore, there was still a tinge of sadness.
"The sad thing is we don't have everybody," said Payton.
Former GM Popp (who later became the Montreal Alouettes GM) also wondered what could've been, since the Stallions never got a true send-off.
"Knowing in Montreal when we won a Grey Cup, the parades we have had have garnished more than 300,000 people coming out in the streets just like the Ravens have," Popp said. "It probably wouldn't have been any size like that, but to have a big party and build off that for another year would have been special."
Owner Speros echoed those sentiments.
While the Stallions didn't receive their proper sendoff, they certainly have a place in Baltimore sports lore for eternity. Because of their success and popularity, it made people realize that Baltimore was a 'football city', and that the citizens of Baltimore wouldn't rest until they got their NFL. As Popp said, "It showed the people looking from the outside, 'We better get back in there because it's silly that this city doesn't have something.'
Without the Baltimore Stallions, and the passion of a city, the Baltimore Ravens may have never existed. And that's something to be truly thankful for.